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A new direction for water management? Indigenous nation building as a strategy for river health

Steve Hemming, Flinders University
Daryle Rigney, Flinders University
Samantha L Muller, Flinders University
Grant Rigney, Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority
Isobelle Campbell, Mannum Aboriginal Community Association Incorporated; Sugar Shack Aboriginal Corporation; Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08982-220213

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Abstract

Indigenous involvement in Australian water management is conventionally driven by a top-down approach by nonIndigenous government agencies, that asks “how do we engage Indigenous people?” and has culminated in the ineffective “consult” and “service delivery” processes evident in mainstream water management planning. This is a hopeful paper that identifies the critical importance of a “nation-based” approach for effective Indigenous engagement in water planning and policy through the work undertaken by the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority (NRA) in the Murray Futures program. The NRA is an Indigenous government in the “settled-south” of Australia. Over past decades, the NRA has developed a range of political technologies that act as tools for redeveloping Ngarrindjeri Nationhood after colonial disempowerment and dispossession. These tools enable better collaboration with nonIndigenous governments, especially in natural resource management policy and practice. In turn, this has better enabled the NRA to exercise a decision-making and planning authority over the lands and waters in its jurisdiction, therefore, more effectively exercising its ongoing duty of care as Country. This paper presents a case study of the Sugar Shack Complex Management Plan, codeveloped by the NRA and the South Australian Government in 2015, to demonstrate the benefits that accrue when Indigenous nations are resourced as authorities responsible for reframing water management and planning approaches to facilitate the equitable collaboration of Indigenous and nonIndigenous worldviews. As a marker of the success of this strategy, the Ngarrindjeri Yarluwar-Ruwe Program, in partnership with the South Australian government, recently won the Australian Riverprize 2015 for delivering excellence in Australian river management.

Key words

Decolonizing; Indigenous knowledge; Indigenous nation building; nation-based engagement; natural resource management; self-determination; water management; wetland planning

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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